Thank you Joakim Sandberg for sending us a code for his game!
Noitu Love: Devolution has been available on Steam for a few years now, but Nintendo 3DS and Wii U owners can now play this retro-themed action side-scroller.
Noitu Love: Devolution is actually a sequel, but it's not necessary to play the first game to know what's going on. Devolution is set a century after the events of Noitu Love. The titular character defeated the evil robots known as the Grinning Darns and their leader Darnacus Damnation. Darnacus had created robots known as Evomatics and planned to turn everyone into monkeys. They've now returned and not only are they causing mayhem through time travel, they also reactivated a doppleganger of Noitu's assistant, which was also created by Darnacus. Luckily, watching the intro cutscene will shed some light on the events in the previous game.
Devolution follows the main character, Xoda Rap, and a new team of heroes called The Green Helmets, led by Mr. Almond. The Green Helmets assist Xoda along her adventure by providing information about the locales and enemies. About halfway through the game Mr. Almond is actually kidnapped. Only Xoda can save him and put a stop to the Darns.
The gameplay in Devolution is rather simple. Movement is mapped to the face buttons, but you can also use the circle pad and D-pad. Holding down 'A' will determine how high Xoda will jump. Attacking is controlled by tapping on enemies with the stylus. You'll continue to attack as long as an enemy doesn't hit you while the strikes are connecting. Tapping enemies that are farther away will have Xoda flip her way over to wherever they are on the screen. Double tapping left, right, or up on the D-pad will unleash special moves that are not only good at dealing damage, but are effective ways to move about levels. These can also be performed by sliding the stylus in the appropriate direction.
Each of the seven stages are based on a different time in history, making each one feel incredibly unique. This helps keep the game fresh and not become stale or repetitive. There's even a side-scrolling shoot 'em up level! Stages don't go on longer than they need to, and the midbosses and bosses along the way require that you learn their patterns. These fights had me scratching my head as to how I needed to deal damage. It doesn't take long to figure out and I appreciated that the game wasn't holding my hand. My only issue is that once the screen begins to scroll, you can't go back. This made taking in the scenery a bit of a challenge, but the point of a game isn't to stare at the backgrounds all day, so it's forgivable. As you progress through stages you'll gain points. These add up at the end of a stage and will determine which letter grade you'll receive. This is great for players that enjoy getting high scores.
Graphically, this is one of the best looking games on the 3DS. The retro aesthetic bleeds personality, and I couldn't help but feel the same way I did playing Cave Story for the first time all those years ago. Xoda and the other members of the Green Helmets each have their own style, and the designs of enemies and bosses are just amazing. Bosses in particular vary from a sea serpent to a transforming train. Coupled with their attack patterns and overall designs, these are incredibly memorable fights that will likely stick with the player long after they finish playing.
The soundtrack for Devolution is filled with some rocking chiptune that matches perfectly with the rapid progression in stages. Just turning on the game and hearing the main menu theme, you'll know there was a ton of love poured into the tracks. The distinct sound your weapon makes, and all the noises made by the robot enemies do well to compliment the action found on screen. I rarely keep my 3DS at max volume, but I did for the entirety of my playthrough of the game.
Now Devolution is a bit on the short side, lasting me around two hours to see all seven stages. Therein lies the beauty though. There are unlockable characters, one of which is actually the robot doppelganger, Rilo Doppleori. She plays much differently to Xoda, and there's even a hidden boss for her story arc. Adding in hard mode and trying to get a high score, there's plenty of reasons to replay the game.
As this is a shooter there is a moderate amount of violence, though the enemies in the game are robots and other non-human creatures. When all is said and done this is a fantastic little gem. Memorable boss fights, a rocking soundtrack, and a fantastic art style all seamlessly come together to make a standout title that any 3DS owner can easily pick up and play. Some may find the $9.99 price a bit too high for the length, but fans of retro games like Metal Slug and Mega Man will find a lot to like here. Noitu Love: Devolution gets a high recommendation from me.